Send politicians a uniform message

I get a little tired of the bishops discussing whether they should or shouldn't deny Communion to pro-choice politicians.

Why can't each bishop, in the diocese to which a pro-choice candidate belongs, say to the candidate:

"By your public choice to support abortions rights and since you take huge sums of money from abortion groups to support your candidacy you have automatically cut yourself off from the teachings of the Catholic Church. In effect, you have excommunicated yourself from the Catholic Church. Therefore if you choose to receive holy Communion, you do so at your own peril."

-- Danile Keily-Zent, Tappen, N.D.

Listen to the pope

I hope it is safe to assume that Pope Benedict XVI's February speech ("Why we need to be 'as Catholic as the pope,'" April 5) was heard sincerely by Archbishop Raymond Burke. The archbishop's support in an interview with a Virginia conservative group urging pressure on bishops who refuse to refuse Communion was a contradiction of the pope's stance.

Archbishop Burke hastily issued an apology to his "brother bishops." I cannot help but liken it to Michael Steele's apology to Rush Limbaugh.

-- G.G. Trageser, Hummelstown, Pa.

Misleading article?

We were startled and deeply concerned with the shallowness of the reporting contained in the recent article titled "Effectiveness of abstinence education questioned" (News Analysis, March 1). We'd like to shed some important facts that are either missing or misrepresented in the article.

While good parents have been teaching abstinence until marriage for centuries, "abstinence education programs" as we know them today are a very recent development and, as such, authentic studies on the long-term impact are simply unavailable.

The OSV article cites a "recent" study by Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins, the conclusions of which infer virginity pledges are ineffective. This is misleading on two levels. First, the study itself is 10 years old, with Rosenbaum only recently offering new analysis. Second, while virginity pledges and so-called commitment cards may be included in good abstinence education programs, they are only a footnote to a larger, more important message.

It is curious and disconcerting indeed that Scott Alessi, the reporter of the article, relies heavily upon Doug Kirby, assigning him the status as "leading researcher" of abstinence education programs. Kirby is well known to have a professional bias against abstinence education programs. His comments that abstinence education programs need "skill building" and "personalized to youth" elements reveal his ignorance.

Abstinence education is primary prevention -- a way to teach and show our kids how to make healthy choices and stay out of trouble by avoiding risky behavior.

-- Dr. Ron Ferris, M.D., president of the board

--Dr. Ruth Taylor, M.D., board member, Abstinence Education, Inc.,Wichita, Kan.

Scott Alessi responds: The point of the story was not to give a comprehensive report on whether or not abstinence education works, but to address the validity of the claims that it doesn't. I only mentioned the Rosenbaum study as a reference point since it had been the subject of other stories that cited it as proof against abstinence programs. It is true that Rosenbaum used older data rather than interviewing a new group of teens, but she used it for an entirely new study, so I don't think it is misleading to call her work "recent." As for the idea that virginity pledges are only one aspect of abstinence programs, that was the point of my article -- that you can't cover all abstinence education in broad strokes based on studies like Rosenbaum's, because it is a very specific result based on a subset of the programs.

I stand by the reference to Doug Kirby as a leading researcher in this area, being that he has not only studied abstinence programs themselves but has reviewed many of the studies done by others and has written some very comprehensive reports on the subject. He relies on hard evidence, not speculation or opinion. In reading some of his research, I did find that he seemed to lean toward the side that abstinence education doesn't work, and that's why I sought him out as a source -- I wanted to hear all sides of the argument.

Showing mercy

I wish to reply to "Don't pity prisoners" (Letters to the Editor, April 5), as a prisoner.

Yes, it is true that most prisoners do not like to admit to their crime(s). The reasons for this could be any the following: the crime(s) are painful for the prisoners to deal with; the crime(s) could cause physical danger to the prisoner if he speaks of them; the prisoner is advised by his lawyers to admit to nothing; and/or the prisoner is trying to put his past behind him.

I agree that there are prisoners who are as close to evil as humanly possible, but this does not mean that all prisoners are evil. It is easy to tell the difference from those who are trying to change for the better from those who are not. For myself, I surround myself with prisoners who attend Mass, go to school, who are not gang affiliated, and who wish to change their ways.

When it comes to sending money to inmates, it is true that some use their money for illicit purposes, but this is not true for all. For many, they use their money to pay for court costs, fines, child support, medical care (in many prisons, prisoners have a co-pay), lawyer costs, shampoo and toothpaste. For myself, people send me money, which I use to attend college and to be a child sponsor. I am not the only one that does this, either.

Finally, most of our prisoners will be released back to the community someday. If they are shown love while in prison by the community, they are less likely to reoffend. But if shown hate, they may be worse than when they were first arrested.

-- Damion John Leafey, Huntingdon, Pa.